Got warriors?

A quadriplegic horse gentler helps reservation boys through their dangerous teens

  • Daniel Addison, a Northern Arapaho teen, on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation.

    Sarah Kariko
  • Copyright (c) 2009 by Lisa Jones. From the forthcoming book Broken by Lisa Jones, to be published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y. Printed by permission.
  • Stanford Addison, quadriplegic healer, foreground, surrounded by his "outlaws."

    Sarah Kariko
  • Stanford Addison works a horse from his wheelchair.

    Sarah Kariko
  • Stanford Addison gets help stretching from Robert.

 

Copyright (C) 2009 by Lisa Jones. From the forthcoming book Broken: A Love Story by Lisa Jones, to be published by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., N.Y. Printed by permission.

Daniel Addison was 17 years old and skinny when I met him five years ago, although it was hard to say for sure because he wore such oversized clothes. When he rode a horse near his home on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation, he flopped and clinked around in the saddle like a heap of black laundry encrusted with chains.

Daniel was Northern Arapaho Goth.

Once I said to him, "It must be really easy to do your laundry since everything's black."

He looked blank.

"When all the clothes are black, the colors don't bleed onto each other," I explained.

He looked at me quietly for a few seconds, then said with real feeling, "Yeah, but black fades."

I was at Daniel's house because I was writing a book about his father, Stanford Addison, a quadriplegic horse gentler and traditional healer. An endless stream of visitors came to Stanford's house seeking help with troublesome horses and neighbors, or relief from cancer and bipolar disorder. I was a frequent visitor over a five-year period, and at Stanford's I experienced enough joy, pain and transcendence to change my life. But that's another story. Suffice it to say Stanford was the gentlest and most powerful person I'd ever met.

One evening, Stanford was saying something to me like "when people are angry, they flare red," and I was letting the statement work slowly through my white, unmystical synapses when Daniel yelled, "Aaaa!"

He was about four feet away from us, scrutinizing his face in the bathroom mirror.

"A hair!" he hollered. "On my chin!" Being from a Northern and hairy race myself, I grew up believing that for 17-year-old boys finding a hair on their chin would be an occasion for joy, or perhaps relief. Not for Daniel.

He came over, thrust his chin into my face, and said, "Can you see it? Can you see it?"

I couldn't, I promised.

"Oh, man," he said disgustedly. "I look like a man who lives on a island."

What did that mean? Maybe he meant someone who'd survived a shipwreck. Or maybe for a Plains Indian whose life is all about roaming the Wyoming sage in his grandma's borrowed Cutlass Sierra -- which Daniel had done with satisfaction until a couple of months before, when he swerved to avoid a horse in the darkness and totaled the car, emerging characteristically unscathed himself -- maybe for a young guy like that, living on an island would be a confining, bad, hairy experience.

I loved Daniel even though he bred pit bulls. He gave them delicate, feminine, frontiersy names -- Daisy, Eve and Nell -- but the dogs were still killers in the "I'm just playing but oops now I'm killing" way of their breed. They killed my favorite dog at Stan's, a little mutt named Mark that ran with the pack around the house. Daniel was there when this happened, and had been bursting to tell me about it for months, but he had been sternly instructed to tell me the little dog had been killed by a porcupine. Mark was six months dead when I found out the truth, and I was grateful for the lie.

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